Saturday, 30 May 2015

In The Works: Tombstone - A Wild West Role-Playing Game

Tombstone RPG - Corey Ryan Walden/ Erik Wilson
Some of you may be aware that I have a Wild West RPG in the works (tentatively titled Tombstone). It's been an on/off project for me over the past 8 months or so. The playtest version is nearing completion and I intend to provide a free (limited) download when the time comes. I imagine it will be artless or low-art, and released for the sole purpose of receiving suggestions for improvement. Thereafter, when Tombstone has been refined somewhat I intend to release a full version. The full version will be in colour - either softcover or hardback, though I'm still unsure of specifics. 

Given my general busyness currently I can't speculate on an initial release date, nor do I wish to. I work best when there is no pressure of a deadline, and this has been a project I do not want to rush. However I will say a few preliminary things about it.

Firstly, as you can see by the image to the left, I have commissioned some high quality artwork by Erik Wilson. He's done a fantastic job at capturing my vision for the project, and I cannot wait to show you guys the other pieces.

It should be mentioned too, that I've attempted to capture the spirit of Boot Hill without the game simply being a retro-clone of Boot Hill. I have created a completely independent set of mechanics, and it is indeed an entirely different game. The guiding principle in designing Tombstone has been that it needs to be easy to play, deadly and immersive. I feel like I've succeeded on those fronts thus far - if the playtests and con games can be indicative. The other purpose is that a Referee needs to be able to run this game with about 10-15 minutes of prep time. For this reason I think it makes an excellent episodic game played every now and then, over the course of a few months. Characters can likewise be made within 5-15 minutes, and this is important because they'll die often! My gaming group have a side campaign of Tombstone that we pick up between other campaigns, or when we want a break from fantasy or sci-fi. This game has been a perfect filler during these downtimes. I can literally have an idea and run an evening game with an idea or two. There will be options for "levelling" of course, though this is more subsidiary to the exploration and adventure components, which are the game's main foci.

Anyway, hopefully this gives a little taster of what's in the pipeline, and I hope to get this thing finished within the next year at most. 

Tombstone RPG - Corey Ryan Walden/ Erik Wilson

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Campaign Journal: AS&SH The Anthropophagi of Xamboola (Session 5)

SPOILER ALERT: This journal is extracted from an unpublished and upcoming Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea adventure I am currently completing. This account eventuates from the playtest. You have been warned!

Visitors to the desert-city of Xamboola beware! Demoniacal cachinnations and dull totemic drumbeats sound nocturnal from the outskirts of the city. Too, vile shrieks echo in response to the nightmarish noises, making even those of heroic aspect shudder in repulsion. Residents do not tarry to lock themselves in their homes at night, for something sinister lingers in the fringes of the black of night. Whisperings and warnings intimate that foreign guests residing at the inn of one Aramis D’athak oft disappear at night, never to be seen or heard from again. Where they disappear is not known, nor do the people of Xamboola speak of the hellish noises that darken their oasis city in the gloom of night.

Session 5: A Goddess In The Undergloom

The Party

Sint the Pict Ranger (Level 2)
Heron the Kimmerian Druid (Level 2)
Xechies the Kimmerian Warlock (Level 1)
Grimnear Hothgar the Viking Berserker (Level 2)
Estorane the Ixian Thief (Level 3; Hireling)
Squire Sharptooth Ixian Cannibal Torchbearer (Hireling)

Part I: The Inhumation of Moloch

It was a sombre group that carried the corpse of Moloch to the surface town of Xamboola. Weary, injured, and saddened, the adventurers hired a mortician and proper burial was conducted. In the days following his death the group went their separate ways for a time: Estorane to the Grotto of Rel to train under the tutelage of her people; Sint and Heron departed into the wildlands to hone their desertcraft; Grimnear to the arena to test his mettle against...metal. After a time of focus and up-skilling the avarice of the underworld was too great. Upon selling some of their plundered booty, a return to the derelict desert palace was imminent. Before departing a new face in town appeared: a Kimmerian with grey eyes and dark cropped hair, wielding shield and flail. Speaking of his alliances with chaos, Xechies requested to accompany the group in their delve. After promising to prove his valour and worth "or take all my items when I die" the group agreed for this new companion's company.

Scouring the top level of palace, lest the detestable cannibals had returned, the group was ready to begin their descent again. However, in one room two male cannibals guarded the remnant of the female and children anthropophagi. 
One was particular vocal: "You have blasphemed Xathoqqua and the wise masters! Was it you who caused their demise?"
"Yes" Grimnear spake.
Anger coursed through the slave cannibal: "You'll be damned for that! Only the wise masters may descend beneath the surface, and you have dealt a deleterious blow to my people."

After some discourse the cannibal decided that maybe these intruders were actually sent from Xathoqqua, and despite the death of the wise masters, perhaps this was Xathoqqua's way of bringing vengeance upon the satrapy of Xamboola, and cleansing the non-believers from his tribe.

"Come down with us to the dungeon below" Grimnear commanded.
"Me? A chosen one?" the cannibal queried, incredulous at Xathoqqua's mercies.
"Um...yeah sure"

Thereafter he was named Squire Sharptooth and was charged with the carriage of torches.

Part II: The Goddess & The Batrachian Matron

Suspecting they had overlooked something on their last descent, the group set to work. Squire Sharptooth began clearing rubble, while the others patted the dungeon walls searching for hidden entrance. At last a tunnel was found, bored into a cell wall. Stepping into the utmost stygian darkness, the sounds of running water could be discerned, and a small thatchy hut was spotted. Smoke coiled from a lone chimney, while the back of the hut had a patch of vegetables, herbs, and an array of startlingly vivid 'shrooms of every imaginable colour. 

With caution the group approached the hut, and although silence was sought, a little too much noise was made. Sint held his bow poised and nocked, and opened the tiny hit door. Peering inside the group beheld a goddess. A maiden with golden tresses and voluptuous figure sat on a bed stirring a pot, aromatic and steaming. Beside her was a curled and sleeping fox. Grimnear's eyes examined her chiffon gown appraisingly, lustful for what lay beneath.

"Hello!" She sat up somewhat surprised to see visitors.
"Who are you?" asked Sint somewhat suspiciously
"It is I" she said. "I do not know how long I've been down here" she sighed. "Perhaps it's been decades perhaps it's been centuries."
Curiously she did not look a day over thirty years-old.

Xechies asked whether she could fashion a healing poultice or brew for them. Promising recipes and concoctions of every sort, she requested the group find her a fabled gem in a nearby undercity in return. Going out into her nearby garden she began gathering a blue shroom for Xechies who apparently had a "good soul." Grimnear, with slightly tilted head watched her from behind "perving" on her, but disagreed that it was a fair price for such a priceless gem. They decided to depart from her presence, though not before Sint had tasted her fruity mulled wine, simmering within the cauldron.

The further they wandered from the fair maiden's hut, the more fixated Sint became upon her. He pondered the shape of her dress, her honey-coloured hair, and experienced a vision of her caressing his hair. He attempted to shake the feeling off, but in doing so, the desire to see her became more and more entrenched. Trying to sober his thoughts he dunked his hands into the freezing and icy river running parallel to their trail. With little avail, he succumbed to his desires. Without word he began walking back to his lover's hut.

"What are you doing?!" Grimnear shouted after him.
Sint ignored him, purposeful in his destination. Hefting a stone, Grimnear threw it at Sint's head, though unusually the Viking's aim was off. The stone plonked loudly in the flowing undercurrent of the river. Estorane and Heron chased Sint and reached him at the doorway to the fair maiden's hut. Hearing the commotion outside, the woman exited the room.

"What have you done to him?!" Grimnear screamed, "Look at him!"
Drool coursed down Sint's face, but he was oblivious. It was his highest ambition realised, he was in the presence of his lover!

The maiden smiled.

Furious Grimnear began kicking at her mushroom patch. "If you don't release him, I'll destroy everything!" the Viking swore.
"Do you have no love for me?" the golden-haired maiden asked of Sint. 
"How dare Grimnear defile my mistress's sanctuary and home?" Sint thought. "Does Grimnear not realise this is for the best? I will live here forever with my maiden in pure bliss. Perhaps I'll give up the bow and sword, and take up the plough. Yes, this adventuring life is filled with peril, yet I'm safe with my maiden. Grimnear is just jealous of our undying love."
Wrestling himself free of Estorane and Heron, Sint nocked an arrow, attempting to fire it at Grimnear. All at once Xechies invoked magick, aiming it at Sint. Estorane and Heron grappled with the wriggling Sint, while Grimnear charged at the maiden who had begun chanting. That was when they all fell into a dreamless sleep...

Awakening in the hut, they were confronted with the maiden's true form. Deformed in aspect, she possessed a bulbous face, goggling eyes, and ivy-grey skin, whose surface was covered in oily acne, ulcers, warts, and seeping boils. Her fox had transformed into a hideous and croaking toad. Smaller frogs, maggots and toads swarmed over her bed, summoned from the nearby gardens and river.
"My lovers have awakened" she croaked hideously. Her breath stank.
The group beheld their new lover. Although she had revealed her true form, it was truly beautiful, compared with the homely and conventional beauty of her other self. They gazed upon her adoringly. She licked them with a slimy and raspy tongue, and they soaked it in adoringly.
"My lovers, I have a task for you" she crooned. "Over the river is an abhorrent cave filled with vile creatures. They are a bane to me. Destroy them."
"Of course!" the group chorused.
"Good" the obese and slimy toad-skinned witch cackled with glee...

Part III: The Cave & Vindication

A small barge transported the charmed adventurers across the icy river. On the other side they found a darkened cave, and crept towards it, intent on killing everything inside. Six small thewy brutes, with deformed faces, leapt out the entrance. The combat was furious and bloody. Eventually all of the male cave inhabitants were dead. Vengeance in their souls, the party pushed deeper into the cave, killing another two of the creatures who rushed down the tunnel. One room was filled with a giant forge, mining tools and buckets of chiselled ore. Further down the tunnel, they happened upon a nursery where two ugly, stooped female creatures of the same ilk guarded their young. The dozen younglings were half-maggot, half-humanoid. The maggoty surface the younglings grew within was mucous-yellow; pulsating and oozing with a nauseous quality. After some discussion with the depraved females, Xechies, Sint and Heron learned of the Toad-witch's treachery and came to their senses as they remembered her deception.
"LIARS!" Grimnear bellowed, and hacked into the hapless female brutes, lobbing arms and legs off, and filling the room with blood. Searching the final cave room Xechies gathered bedrolls from the cave's sleeping quarters and piled them upon the maggoty young, while Squire Sharptooth lit the bedrolls with a torch, filling the air with a steamy oozy stench, extinguishing all life within the cave.

Back across the river, the adventurers returned to the Toad Matron's hut. Heron, Sint and Xechies feigned their continued adoration for the sickly matron.
"My lovers, let us celebrate." The grotesque matron slipped off her dress. 
"Come to me" she croaked.
"Okay" said Xechies, who pulling out his flail hacked at her skin, marring it with pulpy gore. Sint and Heron set upon her too and soon she was little more than an ivy-grey mass of guts. Coming to his senses, and disgusted with the witch's vile magick the Viking roared in fury, hacking at the hideous pet toad the matron held dearly. Croaking in fear it attempting to flee, but the whole group invective and enraged minced it instantly. The haunted dwelling was thereafter splattered in fleshy gore, blood, and toady skin. 

But they were free...

Adventure Rewards

340xp for defeating the Toad Matron
900xp for defeating 10 dwarves
100xp for destroying the dwarf younglings
800xp for 2x love potions
1125xp for treasures retrieved
1800xp for attendance and role-playing

1013 xp each

Previous Post - Session #4 The Warlord's Mirror

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Wacom Bamboo Pad - Drawing

I've been enjoying the Bamboo Pad a lot. I whipped this guy up in about 5-10 mins. It's great for sketching out ideas. So much fun!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Last Game

Due to some strange twist of fate, you discover you can only ever play one more game of your favourite role-playing game...ever.

So which one is it?

Have you ever considered this?

Were I in that position, I can without a shadow of a doubt, declare it would be full-strength Dungeons & Dragons. As blasphemous as this may sound to some, I have a sneaking suspicion it may be 3rd edition. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons would equate a close second, if not equal, though I'd have a difficult time deciding. I began my journey (properly) with 3rd edition, and although I have little interest in playing it these days, it will forever hold a place in my heart as the fondly-remembered and immersive experience of D&D. AD&D on the other hand, is the very first, truly the first, role-playing game I EVER played in my life. And again, it will always hold a soft spot within my consciousness of what a game of D&D truly entails, and the feel that such a game has the potential of conjuring.

In asking this question, it clarifies for me what is the quintessential D&D experience. While I am on a dark, weird, gritty, no-demis buzz at the moment, if I could only ever play one more game, I think I would be playing with the full trope of humanoids. It would be one badass session where I fight dragons and goblins and orcs. I would probably play some kind of kickass ranger or fighter and slay my way through a hoard. There would be elves and dwarves, halflings and gnomes, half-elves, and of course half-orcs.

I have no point, other than thinking about this idea interests me.

So if you could only play one more game, what edition would you be playing, and why?

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Black Ruins - Print On Demand

I was excited to finally receive my Print On Demand copy of The Black Ruins from Lulu. I am very pleased with how it's turned out. It had a bend across the cover courtesy of the NZ mail service, but lodging it between two heavy books has straightened it somewhat.

(Apologies in advance for the photos, they look a little pixelated.)

The Black Ruins - Corey Ryan Walden

The cover has a nice gloss, and retains its original colours.The dungeon map (which I had some concerns about printing initially) has turned out how I intended: swampy and grungy.

The Black Ruins Map - Corey Ryan Walden
Here's a look inside:

A hex page:

It's a very unique experience having in your hand a product you have personally created. Most of you fellow indie designers will be able to relate to this. I'm considering making Adventures In High Wold available for Print On Demand too.

If you feel like picking up a copy head over to Lulu.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Trouble in Shroomy: New Adventure Preview

I'm working on a new adventure, tentatively titled Trouble In Shroomy, to be playtested tonight!

Trouble In Shroomy
The commonweal of Shroomtonia is a mushroom kingdom ruled by His Capped Shroominess, King Bolete LVII. It is generally a place of peace – humans are indentured to work the fungi fields – thus commerce and wealth thrives, and the Shroomfolk can pursue their various vocations unmolested. Being located beneath the earth (though not far) Shroomtonia thrives in relative darkness. The upper glades are the domain of Shroomtonia too, a place teeming with wildlife and flora of all description. It is this area that is currently under threat from human settlers, who have chanced upon the four glades. The settlers have begun hewing the giant conifers with axe, hunting the tame wildlife, and destroying the sacred toadstools - all in the name of 'progress'. This will not stand with King Bolete!

King Bolete has charged a group of shroomlings with the responsibility of putting an end to this human insurgence, so as to protect the upper realms from destruction. Bringing back the human leader’s head will grant membership to the prestigious ‘order of the stipe’ - and a chance to become an advisor to His Capped Shroominess.

I will be running this using B/X so Labyrinth Lord and OD&D players should find this pretty easy to pick up and run. My intention is to include the Shroomfolk Class within this adventure, which functionally is pretty similar to an Elf (with some differences obviously). This adventure will be great for a one-shot, and will probably be a bit more linear than my other adventures. It is definitely more Fungeons & Dragons than anything - being pretty silly, and departing from some standard D&D tropes. But it should be fun. 

...And yes, that shroomfolk's spear does have three human ears dangling from it. 

Friday, 15 May 2015

"...Painting Dwarven Penis Runes On His Barn", Or More Politely "Slumbering Ursine Dunes: A Review"

Slumbering Ursine Dunes Review - Corey Ryan Walden
Author: Chris Kutalik
Price: $9.00/$16.00 (Drivethrurpg)
Format: PDF/Print
Page count: 66
System: Hydra Cooperative (Labyrinth Lord)

Year: 2014

If the title of my review doesn't grab your attention, you won't like this module. It might seem like a debased attempt to get you to read this, and okay, maybe it was a little, but the quoted excerpt actually appears in this adventure. If on the other hand, the idea of a centaur enacting such immature pranks makes you chuckle a little, then you will probably gravitate towards this adventure. 

Some of you will remember I reviewed Hydra Collective's Hill Cantons Compendium II slightly over a month ago. In my review I discussed the overall humour of Chris Kutalik's writing, and my general attitude of propensity towards this work. Cantons has a very homely feel, and the compendium has recently been released in a print format, that personally I think looks Gorgeous

Needless to say, when +Chris Kutalik was kind enough to provide me with a review copy of Slumbering Ursine Dunes I was immediately excited. Why? Before I had read or even heard about Hill Cantons Compendium II, I had already had my gaze set on this adventure. I lavished the immediately evoking cover artwork, and plotted how I might be able to justify its purchase. Clearly, when the opportunity arose to delve into the content, I was game.

The Good
Slumbering Ursine Dunes presents itself as "a Labyrinth Lord adventure for levels 2-4". Like most products at least loosely affiliated with the OSR, or with old school gaming more broadly, there is an enjoyable cross-compatibility between many systems. Slumbering Ursine Dunes - or SUD as I will now refer to it is no exception. The stat blocks and mechanical considerations are not the exclusive domain of Labyrinth Lord, but can be enjoyed with more or less any retro-clone or pre-2000 edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Even a 5th edition conversion would present scant difficulty. While this will be obvious to some, I do not wish to presume my readership possesses this knowledge or ability (though these types of conversions seem simian in execution), and some gamers expect exacting compatibility with their system of choice. Be advised this thing is easy to work with, but will require some work if you're not using Labyrinth Lord, OD&D or B/X. 

The layout of SUD reminds me of Hill Cantons, in fact I'm almost certain the type-font of the title and some of the interior is identical. Generally speaking the fonts are easy to read and the layout is solid. It didn't boggle the mind with its awesomeness but neither did I have any particular distaste for it. The tables have a nice shading, and are pleasant to read and interpret. Little grappling is required which is perfect for the gaming table. The cartography is reasonable, being functional and clear. Personally I found the visual highlight to be the artwork. There is an off-beat consistency to the pieces which drew me into the adventure immediately. The front and back cover have an unnameable reminiscence. It's not 'old school' per se, but it begs the viewer to immerse themselves within the setting, and alludes to old tales found in dusty books. The pieces range from mysterious, weird, and terrifying. Like good RPG artwork it transports the reader to another place, and stimulates the imagination in useful ways. The artwork alone sold me on this product. I'm very picky when it comes to this, so that is high praise. Artwork is incredibly important to me in determining the feel of a product, in digesting it, and relating to it on a visceral level. SUD does this well. Any money Kutalik (and co?) spent commissioning artwork was well worth it. Because the illustrations depart from some of the artistic boringness associated with other OSR offerings I feel this product (and probably the rest of Kutalik's work) has made some important headway within the 'scene'. Like Hill Cantons it requires you to leave your notions at the door. That's important, because rather than rehashing the same old tropes, this one will leave you guessing. 

Okay, enough blabbering about artwork. You want to know about the content don't you?

Alright, alright... 

Slumbering Ursine Dunes put simply, is an "open-ended mini-sandbox adventure". When I read something that forces me to break out a dictionary (albeit online) I'm happy. This work forced me to do so on at least two occasions (that I'm willing to admit anyway). First, curious about the title, I had to look up what "ursine" means. For those interested it means "bear-like". This is suitable as one of the major features within this work is the yearly pilgrimage of "soldier-bears" within the dunes. The second word beyond my literacy was "Sisyphean" which means "endlessly laborious or futile". This word was used to describe the consistent insurmountability of mounting the dunes without the aid of magic. It's possible but takes a damn-long time. Already we get a sense of the place. The environment is harsh, and hey, there's bear-dudes. 

Kutalik's typically facetious and largely parodic prose surfaces in this work. I imagine he's the type of man who doesn't take himself too seriously. I can't decide whether I'd want to play in his games or not: on the one hand I imagine spending most of a session in varying states of laugher, whether that would be a small giggle or an outright ROFLMAO I can't be certain; or else he would be laughing at the party's attempts to adventure in his strange worlds. Comments like "the imaginatively-named Misty Isles.." or "Kůň is a greedy fuck" made me laugh. This is someone I can relate to. Whether Kutalik's intention or not, I could see myself within this narrative being the DM: "I need a name for this place...hmm...there are islands and there's a mist. I know! 'The Misty Isles'. It's slightly prosaic, but it will do".

It's funny, bordering on ridiculous, at times. Even if you never run this you'll probably laugh a few times. Discoverable items like the silver ball that induces an orgasmic sensation upon the wielder are the types of tongue-in-cheek, stupid but funny type of things you may expect within this package...

The text begins with the background and lore of the Dunes, going further to detail a few major players in the dunes. A table of rumours is provided - following the true/false dichotomy of older-era modules. A 'Wandering Critter Encounter' table follows with some usual and not-so-usual creatures. What I especially enjoy about the first part is the distinct flavour of the factions and creatures that inhabit the dunes.  

SUD uses a point-crawl system. Rather than providing a traditional hex-based map with adjoining hexes in every direction, the map provides a road map of sorts to the notable points of interest. Getting between each node may be a mini-adventure itself, though it's somewhat presumed these travels will be largely arduous. This is a logical choice for an adventure of this sort, and is probably easier to describe than a hex-based map may have been.

The dunes' locales are generally distinct and interesting. Any mention of a half-mad priestly hermit type will have me instantly interested, so it should be no surprise I was happy to read about one among the nodes. It was accompanied by one of my favourite illustrations within the book too, only rivalling the cover image for best piece. There is a strange hermit in an adventure I've personally been writing this year, so it's good to see a kindred adventure-writer. There are two points of interest particularly detailed: that of the Golden Barge and Glittering Tower. The Golden Barge has creatures called 'ghuls' aboard, some of whom attack with meat skewers and use their faeces to fuel the barge.Conversely the Glittering Tower is guarded by bear soldiers. The whole area oozes oddities and reeks of the bizarre. Centaurs charge travellers a toll, while the 'Chaos Index', aka the 'shit gets weird' table, ensures all sorts of strange events will occur within the dunes. In other words this place is unpredictable at best, and utterly deadly on a bad day. A bestiary outlines new monsters and creatures, while there are two new playable classes (for Labyrinth Lord, but obviously adaptable for OD&D, B/X, etc). The back end of the book contains pre-gens so you can whip a henchperson up in a jiffy, or use them as PCs for your lazy players. The other stuff was cool too, but I don't want to spoil the surprises it if you're planning on playing or buying this.

The Bad
I have a similar critique with Slumbering Ursine Dunes that I did with Hill Cantons: there were times where I felt somewhat external to the text. Because this work is surely based on Kutalik's own campaigns there appeared to be a level of insider knowledge I felt I was missing, but did not necessarily need. Let me be clear: the work in itself is complete and comprehensive, but at times I wished I had been part of the play tests. In a backhanded way perhaps I'm complimenting Kutalik, because his campaigns seem imaginative and like a lot of fun. But I do feel future works would benefit from an outside perspective to make it as digestible and understandable as possible. At times I became confused, especially around some of the mythologies, factions and key NPCs. This was due in part to the writing style and layout, but generally a bit of cross-referencing here and there clarified most ambiguity. In the spirit of transparency and fairness I was reading this on two occasions while very tired, so that undoubtedly contributed. 

Final Thoughts
I like Chris Kutalik's creations. Primarily they are imaginative, quirky and interesting. You truly never know what to expect; a genuine breath of fresh breath air in a sometimes stale scene. His work breaks outside of the boring fantasy tropes that have become associated with D&D. His work is important because it offers something fresh and different. It refuses to oblige with tradition or convention, and is brave enough to try something new. Please, do yourself a favour, and at least check out Hill Cantons Compendium II. While Slumbering Ursine Dunes is a very different piece for a number of reasons, the former will provide you with a sense of Kutalik's style. If it's to your liking I imagine you'll gravitate towards Slumbering Ursine Dunges. I'm looking forward to inflicting this on my players in my Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Campaign, and if you've enjoyed what I've written, you should too.

Now I need to buy myself a damned print copy!

Tranzar's Redoubt: Review

Author: Joe Johnston 
Price: $1.99/$6.99 (RPGNOW)
Format: PDF/Print
Page count: 44
System: Taskboy Games (Labyrinth Lord)

Year: 2015

It wasn't much more than a month ago since I reviewed +Joe Johnston's FREE How To Hexcrawl guide. You may remember that I reviewed it favourably with the caveat that the artwork had room for improvement - though being a free product I could hardly complain. 

When Jo asked whether I'd like a review copy of his new adventure Tranzar's Redoubt I immediately put up my hand. Firstly because I like free stuff, and secondly because I enjoyed his writing style the first time around. It was clear and easy to digest.

The Good
Tranzar's Redoubt is a Labyrinth Lord compatible adventure. It is stated to be ideal for 4-8 characters of levels 4-6. The overall appearance of this work gets a big tick. Tranzar's Redoubt makes good use of appealing fonts, presentable tables, sensical layout, evocative illustrations by +David Guyll and one of +Dyson Logos's distinctive maps. The illustrations are 'classic' without subscribing to an imitable rehash of an old TSR product, as some OSR products habitually attempt. Overall, I can feel the vibe, without being bored by yet another attempt to capture 'the good old days' *

The adventure background is straightforward and involves the namesake of the title. Tranzar was/is a maligned and destructive wizard who unwittingly made a foolish pact with a...tree...for immortality. He was betrayed by the tree, who he had previously saved, and is now in a non-corporeal state within a cave.

Four logical suggestions are provided for 'Getting the Party Involved'. Obviously the DM/Referee/Labyrinth Lord can add additional seeds according to their own whim or purpose. 

The redoubt is filled with horrible vines and pods, which makes an interesting change to the regular, bare-stone dungeon. It provides the adventurers with an additional hazard to navigate too, which can only make life more exciting. Again, the dungeon dressing is described clearly and succinctly. A small table provides vine effects. The effects are largely undesirable, yet not so harsh as to be unfair - generally a -1 penalty to a task, or a small amount of damage. It adds flavour, and has an in-game consequence which I quite like. 

The dungeon (or cave) is relatively simple. There is a secret door to additional chambers, but otherwise the complex is relatively linear. There are some interesting areas like '16. Gold on the Ceiling'. I won't spoil the contents of the room, but the name reminded me of this |m|. The flavour of the adventure is right up my alley, especially the likes of Mr. Gravelskin and his tea party, which very much appeals to my whimsy. There are some definitely lethal perils within this cave too. It's not all fun and games, let me tell you. 

Besides the meat of the adventure there are some other goodies in the end portion of Tranzar's Redoubt. The 'Pretty Little Things' section details the curiosities and magic items to be found within this adventure. 'Creatures Large And Small' provide some additional critters and NPCs unique to the adventure, while 'Under-Over' is a mini wager game. There are 6 pre-gen characters included, all with a brief background to assist getting into the action. Finally there is a player handout 'The Lay of Sword and Crown' - a brief poem detailing the tale of Tranzar. 

The Bad
The 'Under-Over' table I found difficult to comprehend, but I suspect it is actually as simple as the table suggests.The explanation did more to confuse me than clarify, and the examples seemed incongruous with the rules. I wasn't sure what to make of it which is disappointing because I like gambling games. That part of the adventure would have benefitted with some clarification and improvement. There are some substantial treasures within the adventure that may need pruning depending on the style of campaign you're running (I like things to be pretty lean). Clearly that is the liberty and preference of whoever is running the game. I would not consider that aspect to be a flaw necessarily - though it was noticeable. Finally, the map is placed in the middle of the adventure, which from a functional perspective seemed a bit odd. Besides those three quibbles (the latter two being very minor), this product is exceptionally well executed. 

Final Thoughts
Tranzar's Redoubt is a commendable little adventure. I can imagine running this, and even found it to be exciting at times. With the abundance of (free or paid) adventures on the market, you need a product that will stand out in some way. Tranzar's Redoubt stood out to me. It's a solid adventure, with some interesting ideas. It's easy to grasp and is well written. The atmosphere of the adventure was tangible, and I imagine it will gel nicely with any style of fantasy campaign. I can wholeheartedly recommend this. Preferably buy a print copy. 

*If as an author/publisher/artist/whatever, you can actually capture the vibe of 'the good old days' that's great. If you do it well it may even be something special. But progress and innovation involves building on solid tropes and fondly remembered ideas, rather than remaining in nostalgic memory. Therein lies creative decay. The truly great products of the OSR are able to achieve something new in my opinion. These products offer inspiration, without the burden of nostalgia weighing them down, yet remain a distinct homage or celebration of what was loved.